Ella, 4, faces loss of 'best friend' after 14 dogs die in Saskatoon kennel mishap

Kelsey Friesen said she is still in disbelief after her four-year-old daughter's dog, Kali, was one of the 14 dogs that died in care of Playful Paws Pet Center in Saskatoon.

Kelsey Friesen says she has used Playful Paws Pet Center for years, but recently noticed problems

Kelsey Friesen says that her daughter's dog Kali, left, died while in the care of a Saskatoon kennel. (Submitted by Kelsey Friesen)

It's been a tough weekend for many Saskatoon families after a heat malfunction claimed the lives of 14 dogs staying at a local kennel.

Kelsey Friesen said she is still in disbelief after her four-year-old daughter's dog died at Playful Paws Pet Center, a pet daycare and boarding facility located in the city's Sutherland Industrial area.

According to a Facebook post published by the kennel, the building's rooftop heating units pushed heat into one of the facility's upstairs kennel rooms. It got so hot that dogs being kept there died overnight.
Kelsey Friesen's four-year-old daughter, Ella, with her dog Kali. (Submitted by Kelsey Friesen)

Friesen was informed on Saturday that Ella's dog, Kali, was one of the 14 dogs.

"It's her best friend and now we have to tell her that her dog is not coming home," she told CBC News.

The catahoula mixed dog had just celebrated its first birthday with their family.

"We brought Kali in on Friday just to burn off some energy because she's just a pup," Friesen said. "We let her stay overnight and we didn't get to pick her up on Saturday."

Friesen explained that she was in B.C. with her daughter when they received the news from her husband in Saskatoon. He was taking care of their five-year-old catahoula bulldog, Nika, during this time. The couple's house is up for sale, so they couldn't leave their pets at home.

"I Facetimed my husband and we told [my daughter] together. It was hard and I don't think it will be real until me and her are back at home and we have to come into an emptier home."

Friesen's husband, Carson, said he had to tell his daughter that Kali "went to sleep and didn't wake up." He said, at that point, Ella clung onto Kelsey and started crying.

The family has yet to receive a direct apology from the kennel.

'Red flags' at the kennel

Friesen said the family had used the services at Playful Paws Pet Center for the past five years.

"At the start we had no complaints. They were amazing. They took such good care of our dogs, but even these last couple, six months we've been kind of seeing some red flags there."

She noted that there had been quite a change in staff during this time.

"It always seemed like they were always understaffed too," she added.

She admitted that this didn't deter her from taking Kali to the kennel, because they had such a great history with the family.

She said her family will take time to clear their heads before deciding if they're going to take any legal action against the kennel. She does, however, want to see the kennel either close its doors or find new ownership.

Kelsey Friesen says Kali had just celebrated her first birthday with the family. (Submitted by Kelsey Friesen)

"Major changes need to happen — not only with this kennel but with every kennel," said Friesen. "These animals are children to people. They are some people's only companion and they need to be cared for just like you would care for a child at a daycare."

In the meantime, she's reaching out to the other pet owners affected by the heat malfunction.

"I think it would be good for everyone to be together and give each other some support."

About the Author

Victoria Dinh

CBC Saskatoon reporter

Victoria Dinh is a journalist with CBC Saskatoon. She is also a co-host, writer and producer of the CBC investigative podcast, The Pit. Get in touch with Victoria by emailing